Why the Freelancer Economy is on the Rise

HERE’S WHY THE FREELANCER ECONOMY IS ON THE RISE

TWO TRENDS ARE HELPING INDEPENDENT WORKERS LAND MORE WORK, AND TACKLE IT MORE FLEXIBLY, THAN EVER BEFORE.

As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—an increase of roughly 1 million since May 2014. That number is expected to keep growing at a steady clip. By 2020, a separate study estimates that more than 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees.

Increasingly, contractor positions are being held by the best and brightest. Harvard Business Review recently called this phenomenon “The Rise of the Supertemp.” These days, even professionals like attorneys, CMOs, and consultants with world-class training are choosing to work independently.

There are many reasons why independent work is on the rise, from shifting economic conditions to corporate downsizing and employee dissatisfaction. But two things have slowly fueled the trend in a much bigger way, lowering the barriers that once made independent contracting much more challenging.

NEW PLATFORMS FOR PAIRING TALENT WITH BUSINESSES

There are now more ways to work remotely than ever before, from devices, apps, and other personal technology that lets us communicate with one another from virtually everywhere. But there’s another kind of technology that plays an arguably bigger role—platforms designed to match companies with talent.

One of the biggest hurdles for most contractors is business development and filling their project pipelines. Some 35% of respondents in a recent survey by Contently, which matches independent writers and businesses, said that securing enough work was their biggest daily obstacle. But new online marketplaces are launching in a wide range of categories, helping talented freelancers to find jobs in their chosen fields.

I recently visited the Contently offices in New York City and saw how its growing business model and technology platform are pairing brands with journalists, writers, and storytellers. Without it, many such partnerships wouldn’t have been available to either the freelancers or the companies now working with them.

HourlyNerd is a similar platform, designed by Harvard MBA students to connect companies with talented business consultants. The community lets businesses compare consultants’ profiles to those who correspond with their needs. Users can bid on projects within HourlyNerd’s platform, making it a flexible option to find qualified independent partners.

CO-WORKING SPACES IN MAJOR CITIES

It’s not uncommon for independent workers to feel isolated. But the rise of co-working spaces in top urban centers is changing that, offering freelancers unprecedented support and resources.

Co-working spaces are providing more than just a sense of community that comes from working around others. WeWork, for instance, is one of the most popular providers of workspace for independent contractors, and it’s expanding to major cities around the world. The company has raised the bar in part by focusing on creating a collaborative ambience you’d find at any cutting-edge startup. WeWork spaces even boast arcades, fresh fruit, and beer on tap.

There are of course more traditional perks, too. More than 150 WeWork partners offer services like human resources, web consulting, and accounting help—removing some of onus on freelancers to do everything themselves. And in case you think co-working spaces are an unnecessary luxury or just a passing trend in the freelancer economy, remember that WeWork was recently valued at $10 billion.

THE FUTURE OF FREELANCING

Talent-matching platforms and co-working spaces are just two leading trends behind a freelancer economy that’s growing more robust by the day. Other models and services are bound to spring up to bridge more gaps between consultants and companies in more flexible ways than ever before.

And of course, the rise of independent work isn’t just a boon to independent workers, either. It also allows businesses to find more targeted and better qualified talent to address their needs—typically at lower costs. Rather than bringing someone in full-time, with benefits and a salary, a company can hire a consultant who’s ideally suited to a particular project. And that consultant is likely to have more resources to tackle it than at any time before.

It’s worth remembering the new freelancer economy isn’t about “temp” labor. Independent workers are increasingly strategic, experienced, and professional. They want more flexibility than a traditional employee, and in many cases they’re getting it.

 

Author: Brendon Schrader is founder of Antenna, a Minneapolis-based marketing firm that delivers experienced marketing professionals to companies of all sizes. Schrader is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.

5 Essentials for Freelancers to Work Smarter Instead of Harder

When you realize you have more skills than the person working above you, it’s hard to go back to work day in and day out.  That’s when the idea of freelancing comes to mind.  It sounds great, doesn’t it? Working for yourself, making your own hours, setting your price…

But without the bosses above you and the accountants besides you, it means you have to carry out the smaller tasks to keep your business running all by yourself! A little consideration ahead of time goes a long way.  So before you take the leap, think over these 5 essentials we found on Entrepreneur.com. There’s a few things you need to know but as soon as you read this article, you should be good to go:

 

1. Find a Task System That Works For You

Staying organized is one of the most important steps to being successful. You simply cannot afford to let tasks fall through the cracks or deadlines pass you by. It is up to you to stay on top of everything, so you have to find a method that works for you.

There are tons of tools on the market to help you keep track of all your tasks, so it is really a matter of finding what works best for your work style. If you are a visual person, Trello is a good choice, but if you like lists consider a platform like Wunderlist. If good old pen and paper works for you, use that.

2. Stay On Top Of Financials.

One of the scariest parts of going out on your own is figuring out the money. You have to make sure you save enough for taxes, get paid on time, track expenses, and remember to send out invoices. It is a hassle, and you may not feel like you have a head for numbers, particularly if you are freelancing in a more creative field.

But, to be successful staying on top of your finances is vital.

I highly recommend using a finance program that will help you stay organized. Some of the programs will help you save money on PayPal fees, track late payments, and even track hours you spend on each job. A few popular programs are:

 

3. Stay Focused

The good news is, as a freelancer you can work in your pajamas all day. The bad news is, as a freelancer you can work in your pajamas all day. With all the freedom in the world, distractions can become super tempting. And with no boss over your shoulder, it can become very difficult to stay focused and get work done.

You need to figure out how you work best and put yourself in the optimal situation each and every day.

This might mean working from a coffee shop, getting dressed in professional clothing, checking email once a day, renting space at a co-working site, or using white noise. Find what works best for you and stick to it.

4. Take Breaks

When you are down to the deadline, taking a break seems counter-intuitive. Doesn’t it make more sense to power through and just get the job done?

Actually, it may take you even longer than if you stopped to let your brain rest.

Taking a break helps your brain focus better, prevents burn out, and helps you stay on task. It also helps you make better food choices, which can help you control weight gain. There are lots of benefits to taking breaks, even just a few minutes each hour.

Step away, stretch your back, and you just might find a new perspective.

5. Ask For Advice

There are almost 53 million freelancers in the US, which means there are 53 million people out there who have all taken the leap to becoming a freelancer/entrepreneur. Ask others for advice if you need something. I’ve done this over the years. The more I humble myself and admit that I don’t know everything… the easier it is to get exactly the information I need. Find and network with these people.

As a freelancer, you have the freedom to work from anywhere, to make your own schedule, and to accept work that excites you. But, it is also up to you to make sure you stay organized and handle all the tasks associated with running a business. Instead of getting overwhelmed by it all, use these tips to work faster and smarter.